The Death of "The Atlanta Way": New York Times Profiles Sandy Springs

The Atlanta Way: A truce that is nearing its end

You might recall that we quoted from A Man in Full in a story detailing President Obama’s gratuitous use of street slang in campaign material directed at Black people (African-Americans for Obama: “Got Ya Back!”) all of which was hilarious parodied in Tom Wolfe’s book on Atlanta racial politics that was written in 1998.

The below scene from Wolfe’s book – found on p. 97 – brings us a conversation on The Atlanta Way, between the light-skinned Black Mayor Wes Jordan (naturally, a Morehouse man) and Roger Too White:

“Atlanta’s a small world,” said the Mayor. If you look closely, there’s a handful of people who do everything.”  

It’s not very complicated,” said Wes. “He thinks he’s going to win. In these all-black elections, I don’t see white businessman wasting time on ideology and issues. It’s more like ‘Can I do business with him or not?’ and I’m sure Armholster (Inman Armholster, fictional white businessman in Wolfe’s A Man in Full) is all ready to do business with Andre Fleet. That’s what is known as ‘the Atlanta Way’.”  

“The Atlanta Way?”  

“Exactly,” said [Atlanta Mayor] Wes Jordan, “the Atlanta Way. Did you ever unravel a baseball?” 

 “No.”  

“It’s not a particularly illuminating exercise, but I used to enjoy doing it when I was ten or eleven years old. After you take the white horsehide cover off, you come across a ball of white string, or it’s like string. There’s about a mile of the stuff, once you start unraveling it, all this white string. Finally you get down to the core, which is black, a small hard black rubber ball. Well, that’s Atlanta. The hard core, if we’re talking politics, are the 280,000 black folks in South Atlanta. They, or their votes, control the city itself. Wrapped all around them, like all that white string, are three million white people in North Atlanta, and all those counties, Cobb, DeKalb, Gwinnett, Forsyth, Cherokee, Paulding… So how do those white millions deals with that small black core? That’s what leads to the Atlanta Way. Remember that billion-dollar expansion of the airport back when Maynard (Young, Atlanta’s first Black mayor) was Mayor? Well, Maynard got the “business interests’ together and, “Boys, here’s a billion-dollar project.’ So they’re salivating, of course, and then he says, ‘And 30 percent of its going to minority contractors.’ They gulped – but only for a moment. Seven hundred million was nothing to look down your nose at, either, and in no time they were salivating all over again, and they figured they’d just make do with the minority contractors some way or other. Later on Maynard said, “That airport created twenty-five black millionaires.’ He was proud of it, and he had every right to be. That’s the Atlanta Way.”

The Atlanta Way. For more than sixty years, one of the world’s greatest cities (well, the Coca-Cola company would have you believe it) has survived on a steady racial truce: the progressive white business leaders, who provide the economic life-blood of the city (tax revenue redistributed to Black people in the forms of city and county jobs) ceded power to an entrenched Black political class that has strived to enrich only itself and connected parties, all the while ignoring rising rates of Black underclass reliance on the government for… everything.

It shouldn’t take a genius to understand that this situation wasn’t going to be sustainable forever. With the anointed Black political class laying a welcome mat for any Black person with an IQ over 95 (or below) to ditch the city they live in and head to the “Dirty South” to seek their fortune, that hard Black rubber ball that served as the center of Wolfe’s metaphor on Atlanta has now slowly seeped into those once prosperous white counties.

The consequences of the migration to Atlanta by hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of Black people since the “Welcome to the Black Mecca” sign was turned has been catastrophic.

On March 28, 2011, Katie Leslie wrote an article for the Atlanta Journal Constitution that hinted at The Atlanta Way ending (Lawsuit seeks dissolution of Dunwoody, Sandy Springs, Johns Creek, Milton, Chattahoochee Hills: Suit says ‘super-majority white neighborhoods’ were created). In this piece, The Georgia Legislative Black Caucus filed a lawsuit “to dissolve the city charters of Dunwoody, Sandy Springs, Johns Creek, Milton and Chattahoochee Hills. Further, the lawmakers, joined by civil rights leader the Rev. Joseph Lowery, aim to dash any hopes of a Milton County.”

Here’s what Leslie wrote:

The lawsuit, filed in a North Georgia U.S. District Court Monday, claims that the state circumvented the normal legislative process and set aside its own criteria when creating the “super-majority white ” cities within Fulton and DeKalb counties. The result, it argues, is to dilute minority votes in those areas, violating the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution. 

“This suit is based on the idea that African Americans and other minorities can elect the people of their choice,” said Democratic State Sen. Vincent Fort.
According to the 2010 census, Fulton County is 44.5 percent white and 44.1 percent black. About 54 percent of DeKalb County residents are black, and 33.3 percent are white. 

Sandy Springs, created in 2005, is 65 percent white and 20 percent black. Milton, formed a year later, is 76.6 percent white and 9 percent black. Johns Creek, also formed that year, is 63.5 percent white and 9.2 percent black. Chattahoochee Hills, formed in 2007, is 68.6 percent white and 28 percent black, while Dunwoody, created in 2008, is 69.8 percent white and 12.6 percent black.

Translation: Black people realize the gravy train of The Atlanta Way will end if white people dare flex any political power and decide they no longer want to pay for the proliferation of the Black Underclass (what we have dubbed the Black Undertow, which has overwhelmed much of Metro Atlanta).

White people have one purpose in Atlanta and the rest of Black-Run America (BRA): pay taxes so that Black people can live in a cradle-to-grave society, while simultaneously keeping their mouth shut about this one-sided proposition.

Well, The New York Times on June 23 profiled one of those dissenting “white” cities that dares (David Segal, A Georgia Town Takes the People’s Business Private) disrupt the flow of capital from white tax-payers to the Black political class. Sandy Springs, a renegade majority-white city in North Fulton County, might be engaging in the first example of open warfare with the system known as BRA that “could” become the model for separation that rich white, majority white cities employ to escape the crushing taxation needed to keep alive counties under Black political domination.

Segal writes:

F your image of a city hall involves a venerable building, some Roman pillars and lots of public employees, the version offered by this Atlanta suburb of 94,000 residents is a bit of a shocker.

The entire operation is housed in a generic, one-story industrial park, along with a restaurant and a gym. And though the place has a large staff, none are on the public payroll. O.K., seven are, including the city manager. But unless you chance into one of them, the people you meet here work for private companies through a variety of contracts.

With public employee unions under attack in states like Wisconsin, and with cities across the country looking to trim budgets, behold a town built almost entirely on a series of public-private partnerships — a system that leaders around here refer to, simply, as “the model.”

Cities have dabbled for years with privatization, but few have taken the idea as far as Sandy Springs. Since the day it incorporated, Dec. 1, 2005, it has handed off to private enterprise just about every service that can be evaluated through metrics and inked into a contract.

To grasp how unusual this is, consider what Sandy Springs does not have. It does not have a fleet of vehicles for road repair, or a yard where the fleet is parked. It does not have long-term debt. It has no pension obligations. It does not have a city hall, for that matter, if your idea of a city hall is a building owned by the city. Sandy Springs rents.

Does the Sandy Springs approach work? It does for Sandy Springs, says the city manager, John F. McDonough, who points not only to the town’s healthy balance sheet but also to high marks from residents on surveys about quality of life and quality of government services.

But that doesn’t mean “the model” can be easily exported — Sandy Springs has the built-in advantage that comes from wealth — or that its widespread adoption would enhance the commonweal. Critics contend that the town is a white-flight suburb that has essentially seceded from Fulton County, a 70-mile-long stretch that includes many poor and largely African-American areas, most of them in Atlanta and points south.

The prospect of more Sandy Springs-style incorporations concerns people like Evan McKenzie, author of “Privatopia: Homeowner Associations and the Rise of Residential Private Government.” He worries that rich enclaves may decide to become gated communities writ large, walling themselves off from areas that are economically distressed.

“You could get into a ‘two Americas’ scenario here,” he says. “If we allow the more affluent to institutionally isolate themselves, then the poor are supposed to do — what? They’re supposed to have all the poverty and all the social problems and deal with them?”

The champions of Sandy Springs counter that they still send plenty of tax dollars to the county and that race had nothing to do with the decision to incorporate. (The town’s minority population is now 30 percent and growing, they note.) Leaders here say they had simply grown tired of the municipal service offered by Fulton County.

“We make no apologies for being more affluent than other parts of the metro area,” says Eva Galambos, the mayor of Sandy Springs. And what does she make of the attitude of the town’s detractors? “Pure envy,” she says.

Sandy Springs residents still send roughly $190 million a year to Fulton County through property taxes, about half of which goes to schools, including those in Sandy Springs. But by incorporating, the town gets to keep $90 million in taxes a year to spend as it pleases.

Has this financially hurt the rest of Fulton County? It has, says the county manager, Zachary Williams, who calculates that the incorporation of Sandy Springs, and neighboring towns that incorporated after it, cost the county about $38 million a year. Mr. Williams described the figure as “significant,” especially given the strains imposed by the economic downturn.

“I would bet that Atlanta is top five in the country in terms of foreclosures,” he says. “I think our vacancy rate is 14 to 18 percent.”

Some Georgia politicians outside Sandy Springs regard it and other breakaway towns as “the first shot in the battle to destroy Fulton County,” as State Senator Vincent Fort, a Democrat whose district includes part of Atlanta, put it.

“What you have is the northern section of the county,” he went on, “which is mostly white, seeking to leave the rest of Fulton County, and doing so with what I think are racially tinged arguments about the corruption and inefficiency of local government.”

Town leaders say race had nothing to do with it. Mayor Galambos said, “A 94 percent vote in favor of incorporation speaks to the broad community support for self-government and a desire to have local dollars remain local.”

That the Department of Justice has not stepped in and declared war yet on Sandy Springs for depriving the rest of Fulton County (outside of Buckhead, and pockets of Urban Pioneers in South Fulton, the county is the Black Undertow personified) of much needed white tax dollars to redistribute to “the Black hard core of Atlanta” is a mystery that will one day need an answer.

Because if Sandy Springs successfully leaves Fulton County and creates a new county (with those other majority white cities) then you have the blueprint for a secession movement that would instantly spring up in other major cities that are heavily segregated but under Black political control.

Birmingham, Charlotte, Memphis, Chicago, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Montgomery… you will be looking at wave of secession movements that are basically about denying an entrenched Black political class (Blacks control city hall, but have yet to turn this into economic power — The Visible Black Hand of Economics in action) the ability to redistribute  white tax dollars.

But here’s the problem, which was delineated in Connected Capitalism: this model is basically the grounds for creating mini-South Africa’s in America, hundreds of them. As Black Undertow continues to get worse, cities will begin to privatize their own security forces (can you say XE/Blackwater?) and implement the same draconian measures we see the dwindling white minority in the Rainbow Republic of South Africa take.

This is the great quandary of BRA’s coming collapse: if the Sandy Springs model is successfully implemented in other cities/counties, the inevitable will only be delayed and the South Africanization of America will be crystallized.

Opposition to this system can longer be supplied via abstractions: if America is a nation of laws, what does it matter what people live here and abide by them? What does it matter what language they speak?

If the move to incorporate Sandy Springs is about abstractions, so be it. But if Vincent Fort is right, and the move is to deprive the Black political class in Atlanta of the precious flow of white tax dollars, then a moment that could paralyze the world is near.

The City too Busy to Hate… devastated by white people daring to understand that self-determination means no longer being forced to pay for the proliferation of a Black Underclass that commits virtually all the crime in Atlanta, nor pay the bloated public salaries for Black city/county employees that create an artificial Black middle class.

The Atlanta Way has been the blueprint for too many other municipalities and how racial dynamics have been governed in them, and America, for far too long.

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